Road trip across borders
In the earlier blog, I introduced the main protagonists of this epic road trip. If you haven’t read that, I would recommend starting your journey with us from the previous blog: The Road to Nepal – Partners in Crime
We set out from Delhi bright and early. We didn’t expect the first day to be very taxing as it was still the plains after all. We had one of the best roads ahead of us, a clear sky and 6 lanes of pure tarmac to Lucknow, our first pit stop.
We had planned the entire trip on the ScoutMyTrip platform. So we knew where to tank up and where the restaurants were concentrated. So a quick breakfast and onwards we went.
The Lucknow expressway has no petrol pumps on it. Period. Every gas station is at least a 4-5 km detour and would take an additional 30 mins or so. So we tanked up after the 2nd toll from Agra.
We reached the hotel, duly appointed by Oyo Rooms in Lucknow, checked in and were raring to go try out the Lucknowi cuisine. This is where Saumya and her local knowledge helped! Saumya was able to feed us with the best and tastiest kababs from the famous Tundey Kababi and top it all up with some sumptuous kulfi and also fill up our heads with the stories of the rich heritage that Lucknow boasts. A city really worth spending time in!
A quick visit to the Bara Imambara and a serene walk through the Bhool Bhulaiyya and we were ready for more food! The evening was spent sampling the famous chats on the streets of Lucknow.
This is another feature that we have been working on since ScoutMyTrip was conceptualized. We believe that the local flavor cannot be experienced unless there is a local person telling you what’s in trend and what’s not at the time of your visit. The idea of the platform is to bring together the traveler and the local so that they can help each other. We tested this in Lucknow and it paid great dividends!
Early next morning, we had a sampling of the famous Chai of Sharmaji with round samosa (blasphemy!) and bun maska before proceeding towards Gorakhpur.
While planning the route, we found that we would pass Ayodhya and Faizabad. With a detour of less than 20-30 kms we could see both these famous locations. We didn’t need too much convincing and took the turns. Being aware of these detours is a key and essential part of the road trip experience. Being in control of what you can see and do is what separates the road trip from other types of holidays! We definitely loved both these stops on our journey.
We reached Gorakhpur late in the evening and after a quick meeting and briefing of what was in store the next day, we hit the sack.
We were aware that the roads to Kathmandu weren’t great. Our community of travelers had asked us to reach the border early so that we can get the permits and quickly start our journey. Rains and slush awaited us on the other side of the border at Sanauli and the locals in Gorakhpur advised us to reach the turning at Narayanghat before 12pm so that we can cross it before it closes for construction on a daily basis.
Well we planned for this and were able to reach there by 11:30, but as they say, man proposes but god disposes. The road was shut down that day at 11! A quick enquiry at the local police station gave us an alternate mountain route through Hetauda . The locals kept pointing to smaller shortcuts that would help us reach Kathmandu faster, but the roads kept deteriorating, till we were on just rocks and slush. Luckily both Vineet and I were experienced in driving in the mountains and we managed the long arduous journey. Here again, choosing the right vehicle for the journey matters. In today’s world where the humble Alto or Maruti 800 has travelled to Khardung La, it’s not as if the vehicle won’t reach the destination, but safety and comfort does matter. The Scorpio that I was driving was a power horse and climbed the steep inclines with ease. Stones and slush didn’t matter and it seemed to love the mountains. Vineet however had the Eco Sport and that was a struggle. The petrol version to boot, the small SUV would often get stuck in the gravel and we would need to come out and drag the car out of the deep muck it got caught in! These small nuggets of information that the community and road trip experts can add on each route would definitely help the road tripper be better prepared!
We finally reached Kathmandu, 300 kms in 18 hours. Back breaking drive, but strangely rejuvenated! We had passed by some absolutely stunning vistas and the sight of the newest property of OYO Rooms was one for sore eyes. Stunning exteriors were not only matched by the clean and neat rooms but also bettered by the warm smiles and service that the team at the hotel gave us. It was very comforting to see a smiling face at the end of a tiring journey and we really appreciated it.
After spending two days exploring beautiful Kathmandu we began our return journey. We didn’t want the same experience of the mountain roads again, and decided to leave earlier to pass through the Narayanghat roads.
The roads on this side of the mountains were definitely better & wider but that also meant traffic. The drivers of large busses and trucks were forever trying to overtake from the wrong side of the road, and this is something you really need to be careful of! We made slow progress, where at one point, we took 3 hours to cross 20 kms. That’s how bad the traffic was.
Slowly but steadily we reached the border and like a switch was turned on, the road conditions improved drastically! We got down on the Indian side of the border and literally kissed the tarmac! No more bumpy roads, no more body rolls, just plain beautiful roads! Suddenly the few potholes here and there didn’t seem so bad.
Night halt was at the same hotel in Gorakhpur!!
We again left early next morning, took the expressway and decided to go all the way to Agra. We were passing through UP and the Taj beckoned! One of our community experts had suggested that we look at a different angle while photographing the Taj and Ami, wanted to do this before the sun sets. So we decided to set the pace. We reached just in time to get the pics and boy, did they justify the breezing through!
The next day, our bloggers got to click the Taj in the first light, before the crowds started coming in. Our stay again was in an OYO Rooms and this was a new concept where they had taken a house and converted that into a managed apartment. The property was walking distance from the Taj, and close enough to the Sarafa bazaar where the food joints are concentrated. They took care of all our creature comforts and had even provisioned for an invertor for the frequent power outages that Agra is famous for. Kudos to the team here!
The last day of a road trip is always a bitter sweet one! We were heading home, the adventure was ending. We had spent a good 8 days exploring the roads, the culture and the food of each of the places we visited.
Delhi, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Kathmandu, Agra, and many many smaller towns along the way. None of these would have been possible if we hadn’t set out in our cars on this journey.
Till date, I maintain that if we need to explore the country side of this beautiful nation, the roads are the best bet. The local flavor and the taste of the country cannot be seen or experienced in any other way.
Sure, you can fly down to Lucknow to eat the chats, but to get lost in the streets of Ayodhya, to drive through the small lanes of the spice alley of Gorakpur, to find yourself in the mountains of Nepal, to capture the beauty of the Taj at twilight, you need to mingle with the people and travel on the roads of India. Not only does this enrich you, it brings the travelers closer to each other. I believe that I have made friends on this trip that I will cherish for the rest of my life, and that is possible only by traveling on the roads together…
You can read more about all the experiences we had during our road trip on these blogs:
Taj Mahal Image Credit: Ankit Sharma